"Mom! Mom, I think I need a bandaid," yelled Brendan as he slammed the front door behind him, clutching his injured arm to his body.

His mother appeared from the kitchen, drying her hands on a towel. "What happened this...Brendan!" Flinging the towel over her shoulder, she ran to her son's side and bent to examine his injured limb.

"Ow!" he complained, trying to pull it away.

She manuevered him into the bathroom and began to clean away the blood and grime from the wound. "I thought we agreed you were going to be more careful?"

"I was being careful!" he answered indignantly. "But Jimmy Nolan was picking on Kyle again."

His mother paused at that, looking at him skeptically. "Brendan, Jimmy Nolan is three years older than you and twice your size. What were you thinking?"

"That he was hurting Kyle and someone had to stop him," he answered matter-of-factly. "Ow! That hurts," he complained, watching in rapt fascination as she picked gravel from the wound.

She shook her head, exasperated. "Well next time let someone closer to his size stop him."

Brendan rolled his eyes. "Everyone else is scared of Jimmy Nolan, Mom. Nobody else will stand up to him."

Mrs. Dean sighed, not sure if she should puff up with pride at her son's bravery or cry with dismay at his foolishness. "And what happens at school tomorrow when you see Jimmy Nolan? He's a bully, Brendan, and now he's going to be picking on you."

Brendan's grin nearly split his face in two. "Nuh-uh. He said I was a crazy little bast...um, he called me a bad word, Mom. And then he told everyone they should stay away from me."

"Why would he say a thing like that, honey?" She frowned, not liking the sound of this at all.

"On account of I gave him a bloody nose and kicked him so hard in the knee that he couldn't walk," the boy said proudly.

"Brendan!" She couldn't condone fighting, no matter how well-intentioned or just his motives might be. "Your father will discuss this with you when he gets home," she warned.

He lowered his eyes, sighing. "Yes, Ma'am."

Once she finished cleaning the wound, his mother frowned as she looked at it more closely. "I don't like the way your arm is swelling. I think we should have a doctor look at it, honey. Does it hurt much?"

His eyes twinkled with excitement. "Not as much as Jimmy Nolan's knee," he answered proudly.

"Brendan!" The warning in her tone was clear.

"Sorry," he mumbled dejectedly.

"Come on, Sport. Let's go see what the doctor says about that arm." She steered him through the house and into the kitchen, sending him on to the garage to get in the car while she made a quick detour to turn off the oven where dinner was baking.

As she did so, she grabbed the phone from its cradle and dialed a familiar number. "Hi, honey. Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I doubt we'll be home when you get here. I'm taking Brendan to the emergency room-I think he might have broken his arm."

Turning, she found him staring at her, his eyes growing wide with excitement. "Really? Does that mean I get to have a cast on it?" he asked eagerly.

"That will be up to the doctor," she answered wearily. Returning her attention to her husband on the phone, she hastily ended the call. "I'll call you when I find anything out," she promised. "Bye."

"Why aren't you in the car?" she demanded, irritated at having been overheard. She hadn't wanted to frighten him, though he certainly seemed far more excited than scared or worried.

"Locked," he answered, still grinning. "Hey, can I go over to Kyle's after and have him sign my cast?"

"We'll see, Brendan. You might not even need a cast." Shaking her head, she closed his door and off they went.